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Thursday, 5 April 1973
Page: 1159

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! 1 told the honourable member to resume his seat.

Mr Garland - I draw your attention to the state of the House.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! This is the second occasion on which the honourable member has risen in his place on the pretext of calling attention to the state of the House and made a short speech. If the honourable member in future takes the same action T will deal with him. He is entitled at any time to draw the Chair's attention to the state of the House. He is not entitled to debate the situation. (Quorum formed)

Mr CHARLES JONES - Furthermore, very few sections of the community would not be affected in some way or another by a new airport, either as users of air transport, airport neighbours, employees on the airport, or through involvement elsewhere in the aviation or related industries. Wherever it is located the ultimate development of a second airport, together with its supporting surface access systems, industries, urbanisation and essential services, will cost the community many hundreds of millions of dollars.

The best site is the one that, for a given set of benefits, imposes least cost on the community. But cost includes not only the narrowly defined financial obligations of the governments, airlines and passengers. Cost comprehends also values for any deterioration of the natural environment, for noise, for the loss of an open space area, for the effects upon rural industries, for the costs of new urbanisation and for many other 'disbenefits' which might be imposed upon people. These disbenefits would all be assessed and will influence the relative attractiveness of each site being considered. It is essential, therefore, that the benefit-cost study has sufficient freedom to produce ultimately a selection of the best site having regard, on the one hand, to the community's need for efficient air transport services, and on the other, to its desire to avoid unnecessary economic or environmental penalties. The study will also consider the desiraiblity or otherwise, of expanding the capacity of Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport, and it will recommend the optimum timing for the commencement of operations at the new airport as well as the way in which traffic should be divided between the 2 airports.

Although the benefit-cost study cannot be completed until about the middle of 1974, there is a need to reach the point of ultimate decision on the new site as quickly as possible. The earlier interdepartmental committee warned that serious congestion at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport, could occur at any time after 1976. Having regard to the time required for the planning and construction of the initial facilities at a new site, its selection must be pursued with the greatest urgency. Because of the delays which have already occurred at the hands of the previous Government, there has been a great deal of uninformed public comment as to the relative merits of alternative sites. It is obvious that much of this comment stems from a lack of appreciation of the characteristics of the modern airport. Many people and organisations in the Sydney area envisage another Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport, with all its problems of noise, difficult access and crowded building areas being repeated at a new site. This will not happen.

This Government is firmly pledged to the task of establishing a new airport which will not visit these problems upon its users or neighbours. The new Melbourne airport at Tullamarine, designed 10 years ago, is an example of a modern airport with open spaces, noise buffer zones, modern terminal and maintenance facilities, and quick access. It offers a high level of service to air travellers as well as a setting in which the aviation industry can operate economically 24 hours a day with virtually no pollution or noise annoyance to the airport's neighbours. It is reasonable to expect that a new airport for Sydney to be designed in the near future could improve upon the features of Tullamarine. Given the necessary freedom I am confident that Sydney's second airport will also be an attractive feature of this fastgrowing city - one of which its citizens will be proud. Wherever this airport is established, not only will it avoid problems for the neighbourhood communities, but it could bring to the area great advantages in the form of fast road and rail systems, a properly planned urbanisation, new job opportunities and community services such as communications, water supply, sewerage and power reticulation. In addition it could attract the general amenities needed to cater for the millions of business travellers and tourists who will be journeying to and from Sydney from now to the end of this century and beyond. There is no doubt in my mind, if there was a wider appreciation of the advantages which a modern airport will bring to the area in which it is established, most of the rejection protests we hear today would be replaced by offers of assistance.

One important point should be clearly understood by those who are currently advocating sites 35 miles or more out of Sydney. Such a site would inevitably discourage the development of both passenger and freight traffic in and out of Sydney and, to both business and tourist passengers, this will emphasise the relative advantages of either Melbourne or Brisbane with the shorter access times which their major airports offer. The only way of offsetting such a disadvantage would be to maximise the use of the Mascot site with all the increased difficulties which expanded use of this already crowded facility would bring in its train. On the other hand an objective evaluation of all alternatives may well show that a close-in site could be developed without generating any of the problems of Mascot but with the great attraction of allowing Mascot to be closed as an airport with obvious benefits to all of its present neighbours. The development of other close-in sites may not necessarily allow the closure of

Mascot but they could at least avoid expansion of operations there and even this is a benefit not to be lightly dismissed.

Having regard to the deplorable situation this Government inherited from the previous Liberal governments, which refused to face up to their responsibilities or to the very real urgencies of the situation, I have now authorised an instruction to the consultants to compile a long list of all the technically feasible sites, which, within 3 months, will be reduced by comparative evaluations to a short list of 4 or 5 sites. This short list of sites, recommended for in-depth study, will then be submitted to the 2 governments involved, supported by information on all of the sites with reasons for their retention in, or rejection from, the short list. At least this preliminary information will put the Government in a position to make a sensible and responsible decision as to the future course of the benefit-cost study. Obviously, neither the Commonwealth-State committee nor the consultants are going to recommend the continuation for another 12 months of a benefit-cost study in respect of any site which has obvious overwhelming economic, environmental or social disadvantages. What this preliminary information will do however, is to show up, clearly, for the information of the Governments, the 4 or 5 sites which offer the best chances of being ultimately the proper site for the airport.

The in-depth evaluation of these sites which will involve also a study of offshore and inland concepts, will then go forward embracing, of course, all the technical needs of a new airport, the economic implication of the investment of money and resources needed, the implications in respect of the natural, cultural and social environments, and not least of all, the implications which this very large investment will have for the future development of Australia's largest city and the welfare of its citizens. These are very serious and difficult problems which are faced by governments and communities in many parts of the world today. At this very time the British Government faces a dilemma over the siting of the third London airport and this has arisen because of an earlier decision to ignore the recommendations of an extensive inquiry and locate the airport 55 miles from the centre of London at Foulness, primarily to appease the great pressures being applied by persons and organisations whose principal concern was not in finding the best site, but rather in ensuring that their local interests were not disturbed. Now the British Government is faced with a growing realisation of the enormous economic implications of the earlier decision and the probability that an airport constructed at Foulness would be a very expensive white elephant. This is the type of error which would be disastrous for the future development of Sydney and which this Government is determined will not happen in this country. 1 am aware that the New South Wales Government has indicated publicly that it is opposed to both Richmond and Towra Point as possible sites. This view is not relevant to the present problem which relates purely to the scope of the benefit-cost study being conducted by the consultants under contract to the Department of Civil Aviation. The view expressed by the New South Wales Government is irrelevant until it is known whether either of these sites will appear in the recommended short list. However, the question does arise whether the view of the State Government, that it does not wish to have the new airport at either Towra Point or Richmond, means that it would be prepared to accept other possible sites such as Wattamolla, Badgery's Creek, Somersby or Duffy's Forest. If it is its intention at some later time to exclude these sites also, where will it permit the second airport to be built - or does it deny the need for a second airport in the foreseeable future?

It is time the State Government stopped playing politics and got down to the job of accepting its responsibilities to provide Sydney with another airport, otherwise the day will soon come when the present airport is saturated with the growth of traffic and aircraft will be diverted to other capital cities. Melbourne airport is able to accept aircraft at any hour, day or night, and Brisbane should be able to do so before the end of the 1970s. Commercial interests in these other cities will be keen to attract business away from Sydney. The airlines, themselves, will be influenced to develop their services more profitably in other directions. How will our largest city fare in the not very distant future when the traffic jams begin to build up at Mascot? This Government will not be the scapegoat for such a situation, and it is not prepared to follow the irresponsible actions of the State Government in making snap decisions before the facts are known.

The record of the previous Liberal Government in this House is equally irresponsible. In 1969 Prime Minister Gorton excluded the Towra Point site from the considerations of the then existing inter-departmental committee. There were no technical reasons given for such a decision and the committee was denied an opportunity even to consider Towra Point in its investigations. The Prime Minister said it had been excluded because of noise difficulties. If no-one had been given the opportunity to consider Towra Point, it is difficult to justify such a decision on anything but political grounds. At a later time the McMahon Government endeavoured to confine the issue to Richmond and Somersby, and excluded on very little information sites such as Duffy's Forest and Wattamolla. It may well be that careful benefit-cost and environmental studies will show that some or ali of these sites are not the most suitable for Sydney's second airport but it is clear that the decisions of the Liberal governments were uninformed and were vain attempts to preserve its electoral chances rather than responsible decisions of governments dedicated to decision making in the interests of the community as a whole.

Since this Government has been in office I have had many representations on this issue from honourable members on both sides of the House particularly from those representing electorates close to Sydney (KingsfordSmith) Airport, or electorates embracing or adjacent to some of the proposed locations. These representations have only led me to the point where I am unable to get any consensus of view that the sites likely to offer the best advantages should even be looked at. This strengthens my belief that the only fair and proper action is to allow the consultants to proceed with their proposed review of all the feasible sites and to submit a recommended short list.It is clear that another airport site must be found in the Sydney area as quickly as possible and that it should provide the quality of service which that city wants and needs. It is also clear to me that, when the Government comes to the final task of selecting a site, it must be able to say. having looked at all of the alternatives 'beyond all doubt this is the best site'. Because of the delays which have already occurred, a decision at the end of 1974 to commence new investigations of sites now being rejected on quite inadequate information, and with complete misconceptions of the characteristics of a modern airport, would be as intolerable to the citizens of Sydney as it would be to this Government.

I am well aware of the intense public interest in the planning of major airport facilities. As the investigation into the alternative proposals for Sydney proceed, I intend to have the public kept well informed of progress so that individuals and public bodies can participate through the submission of their ideas and views to the Commonwealth-State committee. We want to make it quite clear that we will welcome the participation of the public in this process. It is to be, after all, their airport and they are entitled to have a participatory role in the investigations leading to a final decision. These submissions will all be given careful consideration.

In the first instance suggestions of potential sites for consideration will be received through the Director-General of Civil Aviation, or through the Department's Regional Director in Sydney, but these will need to be made without delay. On the basis of constructive co-operation on the part of everybody we can look forward to the best site being chosen for Sydney's second airport late in 1974. I present the following paper:

Sydney Airport Proposals - Ministerial Statement, 5th April 1973.

Motion (by Mr Daly) proposed:

That the House take note of the paper.

Debate (on motion by Mr Fairbairn) adjourned.

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